A sovkhoz (Russian: совхо́з; IPA: [sɐvˈxos], abbreviated from советское хозяйство, "Soviet farm"), typically translated as state farm, is a state-owned farm. The term originated in the Soviet Union, hence the name. The term is still in use in some post-Soviet states, e.g., Russia and Belarus. It is usually contrasted with kolkhoz, which is a collective-owned farm. Unlike the members of a kolkhoz, which were called "kolkhozniks" (колхозники), the workers of a sovkhoz were officially called "sovkhoz workers" (работники совхозов) and rarely (and then only colloquially) "sovkhozniki".
Sovkhozy in the USSR
Sovkhozy, or Soviet state farms, began to be created in the early 1920s as an ideological example of "socialist agriculture of the highest order". Kolkhozes, or collective farms, were regarded for a long time as an intermediate stage in the transition to the ideal of state farming. While kolkhozy were typically created by combining small individual farms together in a cooperative structure, a sovkhoz would be organized by the state on land confiscated from former large estates (so-called "state reserve land" that was left over after distribution of land to individuals) and sovkhoz workers would be recruited from among landless rural residents. The sovkhoz employees would be paid regulated wages, whereas the remuneration system in a kolkhoz relied on cooperative-style distribution of farm earnings (in cash and in kind) among the members. In farms of both types, however, a system of internal passports prevented movement of employees and members from rural areas to urban areas. In effect farmers became tied to their sovkhoz or kolkhoz in what is described by some as a system of "neo-serfdom".
In 1990, the Soviet Union had 23,500 sovkhozy, or 45% of the total number of large-scale collective and state farms. The average size of a sovkhoz was 15,300 hectares (153 km²), nearly three times the average kolkhoz (5,900 hectares or 59 km² in 1990). Sovkhoz farms were more dominant in the Central Asian part of the Soviet Union.
During the transition era of the 1990s, many state farms were reorganized using joint stock arrangements, although the development of land markets remained constrained by opposition to private ownership of land.
State farms in other countries
- East Germany (Volkseigenes Gut)
- Poland (Państwowe Gospodarstwo Rolne)
- How Russia is Ruled by Merle Fainsod, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, revised edition (1970), p. 570.
- Statistical Yearbook of the USSR, State Statistical Committee of the USSR, Moscow, 1990 (Russian).